Busman’s holiday

A week of Easter events ranging from children’s holiday clubs (of course you want to have nettle soup for your lunch) to Vernal Mining Bee workshops (3 sp of solitary bee at Ainsdale yesterday bee lovers) meant the smart money may have taken a break from the dunes.
But the sunny was shining and I was awake early, so there I was walking south from Ainsdale Discovery Centre at 8am today, enjoying the cascade of 16+ Willow Warblers singing in the slacks, while a steady passage of Redpoll buzzed overhead.
At least 4 Wheatears and several singing Stonechats on the way down to the sheep enclosure, with two Grasshopper Warblers reeling intermittently about 400m apart.

Three different Tree Pipits called invisible in the blue, and the first Heath Dog Violets were flowering – I can almost hear the Dark Green Frit caterpillars licking their lips.

Far worse places to be than the dunes on a morning like this before the coast got too busy and the Natterjack tadpoles really started wriggling – Swallows, Little Egret and a juve Peregrine moved through (Merlin and Jay yesterday morning VisMig fans) with many Mipits and a few Siskins.
As I was walking back towards Shore Road I saw Pete Kinsella and Mark Nightingale looking very shifty by a low dune ridge over by the coast road and as I approached Pete put his finger to his lips, then started drawing his hands across his chest.
Either they were watching a Ring Ouzel or he was being improperly proud of his moobs.
Fortunately it was the former – there was a fine, secretive adult male feeding in the shadows of a dune ridge about 100m away.
The Rouzel was incredibly wary and we hunkered down then crawled up a dune ridge to peer over in an attempt to get a better view.

A wonderful, wild thing, always one of the best spring treats.
Watching Rouzels is one of the few times you don’t mind crawling through cow poop – they are so worth it.
Holding our breath the adult male dropped down the slope into some birch scrub where it was joined by a second, younger bird, which in typical sneaky Rouzel fashion had stayed invisible all the time we were watching the adult male.

Fortunately they took flight when two walkers neared their hideaway and perched up in a birch just beneath us before powering off to the western side of the sheep enclosure where I lost them to view – they seemed to have dropped down though.
I wonder if they were the same two Andy Spottiswood had yesterday?
Hope they stick around like last year’s birds.
If anyone is interested I’m leading 8 free birding walks this week – Monday to Thursday, setting off from Ainsdale Discovery Centre at 9am and Hall Rd car park at 6pm.
For more info or to book a place, call 0151 934 2964 or email landscape.partnership@sefton.gov.uk
More details at:
Rouzels are not guaranteed.